What Is It Like To Take The Bar Exam In New York?
What Is It Like To Take The Bar Exam In New York?: In this post, a bar exam taker gives her insight into what it is like to take the bar exam in New York!
What Is It Like To Take The Bar Exam In New York?
What locations can I choose from if I take the bar exam in New York?
New York State has multiple locations set up for the bar exam in July. If you are from New York, your assigned bar exam site will be based on where you live. If you are from out of state, like me, you will be assigned to either Albany, Buffalo, or, if there’s an overflow of exam takers, Saratoga Springs. Out-of-staters can then choose from Albany or Buffalo (or Saratoga Springs if that is an option). This part is a bit tricky. If you have a preferred location, you’ll want to stay on top of your email so you won’t miss the sign up for locations (in-state takers have first dibs).
Because of the uncertainty of the city in which you will be able to take the bar, the best advice I received was to book a room in each location and book it early. The rates of hotel rooms closer to the convention centers are more expensive. You will have to weigh the cost-benefits of staying within walking distance or staying a bit out and possibly renting a car or taking a car share service. Some hotels may have shuttles to the convention centers, but those may get full with other bar takers.
The uncertainty of the city in which you will take the bar also makes it tricky to book flights. Both Buffalo and Albany have airports. Albany is only a four hour, lovely train ride from NYC. Other than try to rack up flight points, there is not much you can do to avoid higher costs. I recommend flying in at least the day before, but you may want to adjust based on your timezone and if you would be flying in for the February exam (that’s prime time for a Nor’easter to come through the state).
What can you take into the testing room if you take the bar exam in New York?
NY has a pretty standard policy for what you can bring into the room and into the convention centers. In Buffalo, at least, people brought backpacks, larger bags, and luggage into the convention center, but had to check them in their exam room. I am not sure if they had access to them during lunch or if they had to wait until after the exam day was finished.
Everything we brought into the exam room had to fit inside one clear food storage bag. I chose a gallon sized bag. We could bring in drink containers with the labels removed. We could also bring in some quiet snacks. Any food, gum, etc. had to be removed from the packaging. We could have an analog watch, keys, IDs, money, pens, pencils, and ear plugs. We were not allowed to bring in highlighters or cellphones. The New York State Board of Law Examiners has a list of Do’s and Don’ts on the website, so definitely do double check that before the exam in case there are any security policy changes.
What is test day like if you take the bar exam in New York?
I took the bar exam in Buffalo. It takes place in a convention center downtown. I also wrote my exam by hand. Hand-writers were placed in separate rooms from laptop takers. We all sat in rows, two people per table. I felt like I had ample room around me and was not too close to people on either side of me, in front of me, and behind me. The room was equipped with a few pencil sharpeners.
Temperature regulation for multiple rooms in a convention center is hard, so dress in layers. During the first day, the temperature gradually got chillier inside. I wore a sweater and a scarf. The second day was much better regulated. Also, Buffalo is a bit north and close to Lake Erie, so it is a chillier than, probably, Albany.
Try to use the restroom before the exam, but give yourself at least 15 minutes before it starts because the lines, especially from the women’s restroom, will get long the closer to exam time it gets. If you decide to wait until during the exam, you may need to book it down the hall because the restrooms can be quite far from your exam room. Also, you cannot reenter the center until a certain time before the exam commences after the break.
Speaking of break, you can pre-order lunch on exam day. The meal is pretty standard with a sandwich, some sides, and a drink. They have vegetarian options. They are pretty pricey though, but it does alleviate the stress of figuring out what to eat. The line to get your pre-ordered meals was very long, but I am sure it moved quickly. Outside of the convention center is a lovely area to sit and eat. They block the street off for bar takers (probably because we trickle out of the exam like zombies).
If you don’t pre-order your lunch, like me, there are plenty of cheap and quick places to eat all around there. I recommend looking up some options beforehand and mapping out where they are in relation to the convention center if you are unfamiliar with Buffalo. Do not lose track of time. Since we can’t have a cellphone, and for some reason, there was no clock around the convention center, remember to reset your analog clock if you use it to keep track of time. I made the mistake of forgetting to reset it on the second day and I felt completely lost; luckily I was not late, just very early.
The exam itself went smoothly. On the first day after the morning session, we left late because the proctors thought there would be another announcement to let us out after they collected the materials from us. Other than that, the proctors were friendly, understood that everyone was internally screaming, and efficient. Before the exam, someone over the intercom reads the directions. We were supposed to stay in our seats during that time. The proctors attempted to stick with that policy, but some exam takers apparently thought that rule didn’t apply to them. They became upset with the proctors for making them sit back down. So again, use the restroom beforehand!
What is it like if I take the bar exam in New York at the Buffalo site?
The first day of the exam everyone had to be there at 8 am to check in. The second day is more flexible. I would strive to be there at least 15 minutes before. If you are driving into downtown, you will need to account for any morning traffic and to find parking. There were parking garages and lots all around the convention center. Map out your route, drive it, and visit the site the day before.
I would keep your normal morning schedule as much as you can. Stay hydrated, eat brain food (eggs and good grains), drink your caffeinated beverage of choice, maybe not as much though. I did not go to bed too early, but I got as much rest as I could for the situation. The day before, I reviewed notecards but at some point, you won’t retain much new information. I decided that I would stop studying after my flight got in the day before. The rest of the day I chose to relax and take a breather. I also did not study in between exam days. It is important to rest your brain, and you have studied ridiculously hard for the past 2 or so months. You got this.
I stayed with a classmate who is from Buffalo and we made a rule that we would not discuss the exam. Instead, we watched the Bachelorette and ate pizza. On the last day, a group of us went to one of the many breweries in Buffalo and toasted the end of our bar exam experiences. The great thing about taking the bar in Buffalo is that you will be about 20 minutes from Niagara Falls.
After dinner, we all met up again and went to visit the falls. You can go earlier and see them during the day, but I recommend visiting them at night. It was less crowded, you can catch a firework display from the Canadian side, and they light up all the falls, literally highlighting their magnificence. Visit the falls, see some nature, let the mists wash away the stress of the past 2 days, the past 2 months, the past 3 years. When I got to the airport the next day, I just sat there and people watched because it was the first time in years that I didn’t have to do anything.
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